The Blog Squad

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Playoff Posse

I asked my 6-year-old nephew the other day if he liked school. He said not really. I beckoned why. He had no reply.

“Would you rather be at home or at school?” I pushed.

“At home.”


“Would you rather be at home all alone in your room or at school?”

“At home because I have four stuffed animals on my bed. So I won’t be alone.”

That response turned my nose sideways.

“Wanna know their names?”

Now he was in control. I nodded.

“There’s Teddy.”

It wouldn’t be a bed posse without Teddy, probably the lieutenant of the clan. Just like Todd Collins, the quarterback who now gives the Washington Redskins (9-7) a platoon leader who can execute the colonel’s commands. He does it with precision, completing nearly 71 percent of his passes in three of his team's four victories to close the season.

Collins hits the passes that move the ball just enough to continue the ride on the momentum train. That’s the beauty of this offense right now. It is methodical and unspectacular, but it is physically brutal on a defense.

And the leader of this professional football offense is Collins, who will be the difference Saturday afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks (10-6) in the NFC wildcard playoff round.

The Redskins won't win without a big game from their 36-year-old. The Seahawks are too good, especially their defense. They attack and create opportunities with sacks and turnovers — two things this quarterback has shown he can limit.

Collins has waited for this opportunity his entire professional career. It’s a game that he can decide. What a wonderful opportunity to bear such a responsibility and to confront such a burden.

I submit that he’ll play his best game yet this weekend — Washington 31, Seattle 20.

“There’s Shrek,” my nephew added.

“Teddy and Shrek, dangerous one-two punch.” He agreed with me. Smart boy. Shrek does kick butt.

Just like the Jacksonville Jags, entering their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as an unstoppable force. The Jags (11-5) beat the Steelers (10-6) on Dec. 16 by a touchdown.

But it’s hard to defeat a good team in its house two times in a month, especially if one game is during the playoffs. Though the Steelers struggled down the stretch, I like Ben Roethlisberger. He knows how to win in the postseason — much more than his counterpart, David Garrard.

This game is perhaps the hardest to call. But the wintry conditions and home-field advantage will help Pittsburgh prevail in this upset — Steelers 20, Jags 17.

“There’s Harry,” he said.

“Harry? Why do you call him that?”

“He’s a monkey with orange hair that sticks up, and it looks real.”

“Oh, Hairy?”

My nephew nodded.

Hairy would best describe the New York Giants (10-6). What team will show up against the Tampa Bay Bucs (9-7) on Sunday? Make no mistake, New York has talent, when it runs the football, the Giants are one of the top five teams in the league.

But when New York relies on Eli Manning to win games, then it’s 50-50. There’s no telling what Manning will do. Granted, he played well against the Pats, but he has not proven that he can string a few good games together.

So will the Giants grow frustrated against a stout Tampa defense and abandon what they do best early in the game? Or will they keep pounding Brandon Jacobs and hope Eli will convert those tough five yards on third down to sustain drives?

I see Jeff Garcia returning to the lineup with some fire. He has always played well against the Giants, having engineered two playoff victories over New York in the past six seasons.

There will be a coaching vacancy in the Big Apple come Monday — Bucs 27, Giants 21.

“There’s a dog, but I haven’t given him a name,” my nephew ran upstairs and retrieved the stuff animals. The dog was a beagle. He was flimsy, small and quite frankly, boring.

“He’s my favorite.”

I’m glad I kept that thought to myself.

Boring best describes how I feel about the San Diego Chargers (11-5) and the Tennessee Titans (10-6) game. The Chargers will win this one big, no doubt about it in my mind. San Diego, despite Norv Turner’s best efforts to undo a great team, has won six in a row and LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for 679 yards and six touchdowns during that span. Chargers 34, Titans 13.

OUT AT HOME: I was seriously considering buying myself Guitar Hero III for Christmas. But then I remembered I’m 38 years old and maybe the game wasn’t age-appropriate? It would be like me wearing pooka shells.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Speaking of video games, here’s the next generation. Now if this was available, I would buy it.


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